As usual the inquests have started, the experts and the not so experts are being asked what went wrong with India at the T20 World Cup and everyone is coming up with their own theories. There are no half measures when it comes to cricketing reactions in this country and it takes very little time for a player to turn from superstar to villain-in-chief.
The captain is the first scapegoat but then the batsmen and bowlers are not spared either. The coach is another who comes in handy for target practice. The selectors too come in the firing line. There is very little balanced criticism.
"This man should be sacked, that man should go" is the general refrain even as there is little analytical discussion on what went wrong and why the Indian team’s challenge petered out at the Super Eight stage for the third successive time in the competition. The shrill criticism is out of proportion given the fact that India only very narrowly missed a semifinal berth from a tough group and in a competition featuring the top eight teams in world cricket.
Obviously a lot went awry with the plans and the execution from playing the wrong eleven to tactical blunders on the field of play at crucial junctures. The team played five matches in all but the important games were the three Super Eight games.
That the Indians finished with four points - the same as Pakistan and Australia - underlines the fact that they did not do too badly and it was only the little things that went amiss. But a number of these minor things can constitute a major flaw and that is what happened.
Not unexpectedly MS Dhoni is the subject of much ire. It doesn’t matter to those firing the shots that under him India won the T20 World Cup, the Fifty50 World Cup and rose to become No 1 in Tests for the first time. That was the time when he could walk on water and do no wrong. He was hailed as Captain Cool and the man with the Midas touch. Now he can do nothing right and has lost the Midas touch.
From one triumph to another the Indian team has gone from one disaster to another. Fame and adulation is fickle and at times like this my mind goes back to Ajit Wadekar and Kapil Dev. The former led India to three successive series triumphs in the early 70s at a time when the Indian team hardly registered any victories and he was hailed as a Messiah.
But the wheel came full circle when the Indian team had to endure the disastrous `summer of 42’ in England in 1974. Wadekar’s house was stoned, critics bayed for his blood and the result was that he had to retire from international cricket immediately.
In June 1983 Kapil Dev was the most feted cricketer in the land following the totally unexpected World Cup triumph in England. Six months later he was vilified and the target of stone throwers as the Indians were whitewashed by the West Indies in the ODI series 5-0 and the Test series was lost by three matches to nil.
But can Dhoni alone be blamed for the latest reverse? As the well known sporting adage goes the captain is as good as his team and whether the man at the helm alone should be pulled up is questionable. The batting and bowling failed repeatedly and there is little a captain can do under the circumstances.
Let’s not forget India were in the tougher of the two groups and realistically any two teams of the four had an equal chance of making it to the semifinals. True, he would have to shoulder responsibility of any tactical errors on the field of play, the bowling changes, the field placements, the batting order of team selection. But in the ultimate analysis it was collective failure and not the failure of one man.
Much is also being made of Duncan Fletcher’s role particularly as he has succeeded Gary Kirsten who had a highly successful tenure. There were question marks over his appointment as coach last year and naturally his role will come under scrutiny as the Indian team stumbles from one setback to another. Like the captain the coach is also expected to be a motivator, an inspiring figure and one is not too sure whether Fletcher has done justice in this regard.
So does the latest reverse call for an overhaul? Should there perhaps be a change in the captain, the coach and much of the playing personnel? Is it an aged side unfit for the intricacies of T20 cricket? Is it time for young blood to be given the big break? How about different captains for the three formats as promoted lately and quite successfully by England?
Perhaps the time has come for changes but these should be carried out in a phased manner. It must not be forgotten that the Indian team is already in a transitional period. There is no need for a metamorphic outlook but during the season that has just started perhaps in a subtle manner the selectors can ring in the changes.
And yes, these should be right down the order and in all formats. There are a number of gifted young players around and enough opportunities should be given to deserving talent even as they wield the axe without fear on some senior players who are continuing in the Indian team only on past glory and reputation.